2 Corinthians
1-6 The Destruction of Fortresses 7-18 To Everyone a Sphere
The Destruction of Fortresses

1Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! 2I ask that when I am present I [need] not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5[We are] destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, 6and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

The final part of the letter begins with chapter 10. In that part (chapters 10-13) Paul defends his apostleship to the church in Corinth. This subject we already came across several times in the first chapters of this letter. Now the apostle elaborates on it.

He did not like this but it became necessary because the honor of his Sender and the wellbeing of the believers were at stake. Certain people had arrived in Corinth who presented themselves as apostles (so they were false apostles) and tried to put Paul in a bad light with the Corinthians. We will see how they went about it. They did this with the intention to separate the believers in Corinth from Paul and connect them to themselves. The sad thing was that the Corinthians listened to them.

It also happens today. One has a work among a group of believers and then other people come and denigrate that work and they do this to gain entry into that work with their selfish agenda. Perhaps you are also caught up in this trap to believe gossips. It is good to see how Paul responds to these impeachments. He does not beat his fist on the table to legitimize his authority. You can learn a lot from the way he exhorts the Corinthians. In this he follows the Lord Jesus in His footsteps.

V11Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!. That he takes this matter personally to heart he explains clearly saying: “Now I, Paul, myself.” He does this, not to defend his person, but his service. His attitude towards the Corinthians is an attitude of “meekness and gentleness”. This is a spiritual masterpiece. To keep one’s face like flint and react in such a way, is a real hard job. This is not possible unless you live close to the Lord. You can learn from Him Who said: “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Mt 11:2929Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.).

Meekness and gentleness are not traits that are appreciated in the world. It is considered weakness there. In the world one must use high flown words and grandiose language to defend one’s position. People impress others to push their case. But an attitude of meekness and gentleness doesn’t mean that you are a wimp or a softy. The Lord Jesus also had great courage not to mince words but to call a spade a spade. He bluntly said to the pharisees and the scribes right to their face that they were hypocrites. So also Paul expresses himself clearly and authoritatively in his defense.

At the end of verse 11Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent! Paul ironically quotes what the false apostles said about him. They said that he behaved very humbly when he was with the Corinthians but had a big mouth when he was a far away from them.

V22I ask that when I am present I [need] not be bold with the confidence with which I propose to be courageous against some, who regard us as if we walked according to the flesh.. Paul says that he does not hope that it would be necessary to prove that this representation of him is pulled out of thin air. He wants to give in an unequivocal manner a strongly worded answer to the people who accused him of walking “according to the flesh”. To walk “according to flesh” means to speak and act from fleshly motives. But that was not the way Paul wanted to deal with things that came up against him.

V3-43For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh,4for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.. That he walked “in the flesh” was not anything special, for flesh here means body. Every man walks in the flesh.

The warfare Paul had to do with – and which every Christian has to do with – is not a battle against flesh and blood, but against spiritual powers. This battle cannot be fought with carnal resources. Ephesians 6 speaks about the armor with which the spiritual battle must be fought (Eph 6:10-2010Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil [one].17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,19and [pray] on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,20for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in [proclaiming] it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.). There you will find spiritual weapons such as ‘the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God’, and ‘prayer’. These are not weapons of the flesh but powerful weapons for God. With them you can achieve victory and destroy the strongholds of the enemy.

V55[We are] destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,. What these strongholds are, you read in this verse. They are “speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God”. Summarized in one word it is the pride of man. Such man is always busy seeking arguments in everything for his own advantage. It never occurs to him to acknowledge that God is above him and everything. You come across this attitude when you share the gospel with people. Of course we cannot expect anything else from unbelievers but unfortunately this is prevalent even among believers. Paul writes to such people.

The Corinthians came under the influence of such people. These intrusions, the spirit of thinking and speaking which gained entry among the Corinthians could be overcome only by the power of God. As for the world they are foolish weapons used by the believing warriors.

To the world the Bible is an ancient book and praying is a sign of weakness. The inhabitants of Jericho may have laughed themselves sick when the Israelites marched around their city once every day for six days and even seven times on the seventh day. Every time they finished one round nothing happened. How foolish it would have appeared to do the same again the next day. But on the seventh day while they were on the seventh round suddenly it happened. The walls came tumbling down. The people took Jericho which was said to be invincible. They defeated the mighty city with its high walls not in their own strength but by doing exactly what the Lord told them to do.

The method might have looked foolish in the eyes of the inhabitants of Jericho but that was the way to victory. This is the way Paul also wanted to destroy the fortresses of the enemies in Corinth. In this way in the power of God – not in your own strength – you can also conquer people who appear to be invincible.

Paul would come to Corinth and share his strategy which would, he expected, help Christians taking “captive” every imagination of the false apostles who brought the Corinthians under their influence. The wrong thinking is called the enemy here. The thoughts formed in their brain were considered huge dangers against the believers. They brought them to a wrong path, a path that did not lead them to Christ but to their own self. The only solution was to take those thoughts into captivity.

Paul wanted to show them what were the intentions of the false apostles, what stood before their eyes, and he wanted to direct the thinking of the Corinthians back to Christ and make them obedient to Christ. That was the goal of his own life, and this goal stood before his eyes for everyone who was converted through his ministry.

You also, keep this goal before your eyes. Don’t give in to all kinds of impressing speeches of people who have a great show, but who don’t direct your thoughts on Christ. The touchstone to appraise if your work is done in the right way is to test if your work redounds to the glory of God and if it magnifies the Lord Jesus.

V66and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.. Paul was ready to punish all disobedience. Disobedience is the basic sin in the believer’s life that can in no way be tolerated. Paul in his wisdom did not punish disobedience immediately. First the Corinthians had to show that they obeyed his first letter in everything. Even when it comes to pointing out and condemning the wrong things patience is necessary. Not all wrong issues were taken up immediately and addressed simultaneously.

Don’t you also agree that the Lord was patient with you and led you step by step on the path of obedience? And that He endured so many wrong things you committed until the moment when He showed them to you, and you in turn could condemn them and put them away?

Now read 2 Corinthians 10:1-6 again.

Reflection: What are the strongholds in your life that still need to be pulled down?


To Everyone a Sphere

7You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we. 8For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame, 9for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters. 10For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.” 11Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons [we are] also in deed when present. 12For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. 13But we will not boast beyond [our] measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you. 14For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ; 15not boasting beyond [our] measure, [that is], in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, 16so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, [and] not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another. 17But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord. 18For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.

V77You are looking at things as they are outwardly. If anyone is confident in himself that he is Christ’s, let him consider this again within himself, that just as he is Christ’s, so also are we.. We all easily fall into the same error in which the Corinthians fell: to look at what is before our eyes or to observe the outside only. Someone who is able to keep up appearances, flexible, accommodative and smooth-tongued impresses us more than a puny little man who moves stiffly and has a simple message. The false apostles knew how to cash in on the human weakness of the Corinthians and find an entry among them.

Paul did not have an impressive appearance. He makes clear to them that if these people claim that they belong to Christ, he also can in all respects. They must know it for certain.

V88For even if I boast somewhat further about our authority, which the Lord gave for building you up and not for destroying you, I will not be put to shame,. He could boast of the authority the Lord has given him. The false apostles could not claim that. This authority was not intended to destroy but to build them up. Paul always saw his ministry and authority in view of the welfare of the church and did not use it for his own pleasure. Also in this he followed his Lord. The Lord Jesus never used His authority to defend Himself. He always used it to stand up to the honor of His Father.

If Paul used his authority to destroy, then that happened in his love for the Corinthians. He destroyed in them the things and thoughts that did not agree with the thoughts of God. In that way they would again be able to accept the apostle’s edifying instructions. There was no need for him to be ashamed of his authority. He did not abuse it as it occasionally happens today with spiritual leaders.

V99for I do not wish to seem as if I would terrify you by my letters.. Paul was accused that he was trying to frighten the Corinthians by his letters. According to some opinions he used in his letters a threatening language in the sense of: ‘If you do not listen to what I say you will reap the consequences.’ But threatening is something different from warning. Warning means that you make another aware of certain hazards and help him avoid such dangers. He will be grateful for it. To threaten is to instill fear. Warning happens out of concern.

V1010For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.”. Paul warned not to be misled by people who said that he was an unbalanced person. They said that he had a big mouth in his letters but as a person he had no stuff. To put it in modern terms: he had no charisma. You cannot pull down a person better than by making people to talk about him like that. Tell around that he is moody; he talks one thing one time and another at another time and then the confidence in him is gone.

V1111Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when absent, such persons [we are] also in deed when present.. Well, Paul clearly says that someone who talks like that missed the basis. There was no difference between his letters and his appearance. Whoever drew this conclusion from his humble demeanor that he had no courage to sort out the misunderstanding with the Corinthians was wrong. In chapter 1 Paul says why he had not gone to Corinth: it was to spare them (2Cor 1:2323But I call God as witness to my soul, that to spare you I did not come again to Corinth.). That is something different from not daring. In his letters as well as in his appearance he shows clearly what he is about. Misunderstanding is ruled out. From this you can learn that it is important that others know what you are and that you do not behave differently on different occasions.

V1212For we are not bold to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding.. In this verse the irony sounds again. Paul did not dare to be counted one with the false apostles nor compare himself with them. Of course he never wanted that. They were people who recommended themselves. Never believe people who are self-satisfied. They cannot stop talking about all of their fabulous performances and capabilities. It is amazing how many fall for it over and again. In times of political elections the top candidates of a party flaunt the most impressive feats of their party to convince voters that their party deserves the support of the voters. They all recommend themselves.

In Christianity also spiritual leaders boast of their qualities and achievements just to get more followers. They are not like the Lord Jesus even a little bit. They compare themselves with themselves and not with Him, Who is the only standard around which all else revolves. Paul calls them “not wise”. To him they disqualified themselves. Of course it is an embarrassment to the people who boasted in their understanding.

V1313But we will not boast beyond [our] measure, but within the measure of the sphere which God apportioned to us as a measure, to reach even as far as you.. Paul was not thinking about himself. His thought was about the Lord and His work. For this work the Lord had given him a sphere. He had no say in this.

You also have your own sphere of activity. This is your residential area. Let your light shine there in front of the people who live there. Do not work in an area where you know that there are other believers working for the Lord. Respect their work. You also would not be happy to find others work in your area in a competitive way. Such activities do not build but destroy.

V1414For we are not overextending ourselves, as if we did not reach to you, for we were the first to come even as far as you in the gospel of Christ;. Corinth lay in the area which God allocated to Paul. So it was the Lord Who brought the Corinthians in contact with Paul and it was he who preached the gospel to them. Would they now turn away from him and listen to people who had infiltrated into his area?

V1515not boasting beyond [our] measure, [that is], in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you,. These people wanted to adorn themselves with the results of the work that Paul had done among them. It was a clever method which Paul did not approve. He would not enter an area where others had already begun their work for the Lord. He did not want to decorate himself with borrowed plumes. What he was hoping was that they would grow in their faith. Now their growth in faith has come to a standstill through the influence of the false apostles. If you begin listening to the insinuations of the false apostles against a true servant of God, that would be a major obstacle to your spiritual growth.

If their faith must again start growing – and this could happen only if they condemned the negative influences – then Paul would enjoy more honor than he had. The road will then be free again to instruct them further in the truth.

V1616so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, [and] not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.. The road would also be free to travel to other areas where Christ had not been preached. But Paul was prevented from going further with the work, for the Corinthians, his ‘problem children’ had to be dealt with first. Even now it can still happen that a servant of the Lord must devote all his time and energy to deal with all kinds of problems among believers and that he finds no time to preach the gospel to the unbelievers. If Paul will be able to go to other areas where other workers had already brought the gospel then it was not to take credit.

V1717But he who boasts is to boast in the Lord.. Further, his way was not to own any glory at all. He says again what he wrote in his first letter (1Cor 1:3131so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”) that one should glory only in the Lord, for He is the One Who produces results.

V1818For it is not he who commends himself that is approved, but he whom the Lord commends.. The best yardstick to assess a servant of the Lord is to see if he recommends himself by speaking of himself, or is he recommended by the Lord and is his service all about the Lord Jesus Christ. That makes clear if someone is a tried and tested servant.

Now read 2 Corinthians 10:7-18 again.

Reflection: What is the sphere God has assigned to you?


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